When a black stripper accused several white members of Duke University's lacrosse team of sexual assault, the case gripped the country in 2006. The players soon were indicted and the team's season was forfeited.
Eventually the players were vindicated, but not before creating some controversy.
"Until Proven Innocent" discusses the case and how it unfolded. It talks about how now-disgraced prosecutor Mike Nifong disregarded evidence of the boys' innocence and even offers remedies for prosecutorial abuse.
Read an excerpt of the book below.
The Durham heat burned through Devon Sherwood's jersey as he waited for the lacrosse team he longed to join to come from the locker room. It was his eighteenth birthday, September 16, 2005. Shifting his feet on the green turf, he pondered the challenge ahead.
The lanky freshman had been a good high school goalie in Freeport, Long Island -- good enough to be recruited by five small colleges and offered a probable starting position by prestigious Williams.
Duke had been a different story. A lacrosse powerhouse, it had come within a goal of winning the national championship in May 2005. This year's team was even more loaded with talent, and widely seen as the one to beat in 2006. Mike Pressler, the 2005 NCAA lacrosse coach of the year, could fill his twelve scholarship slots with high school all-Americans and near all-Americans. Devon had not made that cut.
He chose Duke anyway. His father, Chuck, had played lacrosse for Duke. And when Devon and his parents had toured the campus, Pressler had greeted them warmly, encouraging Devon to try out as a walk-on.
Few walk-ons make the roster in big-time college sports. Even fewer get playing time. And Duke was as big-time as lacrosse gets. So Devon's excitement was tinged with apprehension as the forty-five blue-helmeted figures came jogging onto the field. They formed two perfect lines, in full battle array, down to the fierce-looking face masks that in a few months would -- along with charges of gang rape and racism -- fix the team's image on the nation's television screens.
Showtime, Devon thought. Will I win their respect? Will they accept me?
One by one, the forty-five figures came up to the rookie, shook hands, introduced themselves, wished him luck. They didn't have to do that, he thought.
Two weeks and dozens of saves later, Coach Pressler called Devon into his office. Was he having a good time? Was he ready for the commitment and hard work expected of a Division I athlete? Devon was ready. He would be the third-string goalie. But he was sure he had to be the happiest person alive. Happy, and eager to improve. He had big shoes to fill. Chuck Sherwood, Duke's first African-American lacrosse player, had set goalkeeping records, including most saves in a game.
Now Devon would be the only black guy on a team with forty-six white guys. His contributions to team culture included a rap song incorporating every teammate's name or nickname, depending on which rhymed better. Everyone had at least one nickname. Devon's was "D-Wood."
The practices were grueling: at least fifteen hours a week in the fall and twenty-two hours in the spring of lacrosse drills, scrimmages, running, and weight lifting. Plus a full course load. Plus, for Devon, getting to know as many of Duke's other six hundred black undergraduates as he could.